I’m in a love-hate relationship with the iPhone 14 Pro’s always-on display

Apple iPhone vs. Android always in display standby mode

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Ever since Samsung introduced the always-on display on the 2016 Galaxy S7, the feature has made its way to virtually every Android phone with an OLED display, and some without. Today, an ambient display is almost taken for granted. Some might even say that the lack of an always-on mode is more notable than its presence.

This year, amid a flash of marketing hype, Apple finally rolled out the long-awaited feature on the iPhone 14 Pro. In typical Apple fashion, it’s not just another exclusive for Pro users, but it also takes a diametrically different approach to Android devices. So what’s different? Apple has taken the word always-on display to heart; By implementing Ambient Mode, the lock screen is literally always on – only slightly dimmer.

It’s been a while since Apple rolled out an always-on display, but it’s here and not what you might expect.

As with any new launch, the feature addition and its implementation has led to quite a debate on both sides of the smartphone camp. While Apple users are touting the benefits of an always-on display, Android users aren’t too impressed. So what is it? I swapped my SIM card from my Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra to the Apple iPhone 14 Pro with always-on display in about a week, and here’s what I think.

Always-on display: who makes it better?

1865 votes

Incredibly stunning, surprisingly distracting

Lead image iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

First the positive. Remember that gorgeous wallpaper you carefully selected when setting up your phone and hardly ever looked at again? With the iPhone 14 Pro, your wallpaper takes center stage and is always visible. All widgets added to the updated iOS 16 lock screen are also permanently visible.

Some ideas: Top ten background and wallpaper apps

The lock screen isn’t static either, and widgets like timers or weather alerts continue to update in real time, albeit at a slower refresh rate. I could see a high-quality calendar or task widget on the always-on display, replacing the sticky note on my desk.

Apple iPhone vs. Android Always on Display Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

But that’s where the positives end; Apple’s always-on display experience is incredibly distracting. As a journalist, I receive a surprising number of emails and WhatsApp pitches every day. It can be quite difficult to ignore updates when there is a bright animation popping up on your desktop every few minutes. The problem gets worse when the iPhone’s stack of notifications is staring you in the face all the time. When it’s time to focus, there’s no other option but to turn your iPhone over. Android phones do a much better job with a simple icon showing unread messages or emails. Yes, there’s a pop-up notification, but it gently slides away instead of screaming, “Look at me.”

The iPhone 14 Pro’s always-on display could easily double as a night lamp.

However, it gets worse when it comes time to call it a night. The always-on display stays on at night and is bright enough to serve as a night lamp on your desk. Plus, every notification you receive emits a retina-penetrating beam of room-illuminating light from that 2000-nit display that Apple is so fond of touting.

Switch off: Top 10 digital wellbeing apps for Android

Is there a way to turn off this behavior? Sure there is. Apple expects you to use the scheduled sleep focus mode to turn off the always-on display at night. This would work great if you live a strictly regimented life. However, not everyone follows a fixed nighttime schedule, and it’s just another example of how Apple expects you to adapt your life and smartphone use to its capabilities, and not the other way around.

It’s the Apple way or the Autobahn

There’s also the small matter of customization. The Ambient Mode feature is clearly designed to showcase the updated lock screen in iOS 16. With the support of lock screen widgets, Apple has put a lot of effort into highlighting the gorgeously designed lock screen page. It’s not surprising that Apple wants these fancy widgets to be always accessible, so they stay visible even when you’re not actively interacting with the phone. However, the customization options are a pittance compared to what Android phones offer.

Apple iPhone vs Android always displays a custom image on the lock screen

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

I can customize clock styles on my Samsung phone for the always-on display, set custom colors, or even add a playful animation or image. The iPhone offers none of that. Samsung even lets you set up custom schedules for the always-on display, or turn it on only when you get new notifications. OnePlus and Oppo phones take it a step further with plenty of personalization options, including custom animations and text messages. iPhones have never been the home for those who prefer to make their phone their own through in-depth customization, but a single toggle switch to turn the display on or off is just not enough.

I love how Apple’s always-on display looks, but I have no doubt that Android does it better

Finally, there’s the issue of battery drain from this comparatively bright always-on display. Apple says lowering the screen to 1Hz drastically reduces battery drain. In my testing, that was true, and I saw a maximum of about 5% delta between turning the always-on display on and off. The physics can’t be beat, though, and a smaller number of lit pixels always consumes less battery life, and those numbers add up.

An unfortunate case of aesthetics trumping practicality

apple iphone 14 pro lock screen

Ryan Haines/Android Authority

Look, I totally understand what Apple is grabbing at here. The company has come up with a well-designed and, frankly, beautiful-looking lock screen experience in iOS 16, and it makes sense to showcase that all the time. However, this is a case of practicality trumping aesthetics, and Apple can’t expect all users to stick to the Cupertino method. I shouldn’t have to resort to an all-black wallpaper to see the time and notifications on my phone. I love how the always-on display looks on the iPhone 14 Pro, but I have no doubt that Android does it better.

https://www.androidauthority.com/apple-iphone-14-pro-always-on-display-3212271/ I’m in a love-hate relationship with the iPhone 14 Pro’s always-on display

Chris Barrese

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